CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. — The short life and tragic death of Andrew “AJ” Freund is a five-year tale of misery and mistreatment, much of it told in vivid detail in 60 pages of police reports documenting his family’s many interactions with the system.
Born with opioids in his system, AJ was taken into protective custody by DCFS less than a month after he was born. He spent his first seven months in a foster home before he was retuned to his mother, JoAnn Cunningham.
In 2014, a woman called police saying tenants living in the family’s home were using heroin after she found a syringe on the kitchen floor. Police told the woman to seek an eviction.
In 2015, AJ’s father, Andrew Freund, Sr., was disciplined and had his law license suspended for violating court orders dealing with his divorce and drug use. There were at least two more investigations into allegations of abuse and neglect over the following months.
As grass around the home had grown to be nearly two feet tall and paint was peeling off the house last September, police records say a neighbor called, saying the house had no power and had fallen into a dilapidated state.
Janelle Butler says neighbors were worried about the welfare of the children.
“In this neighborhood a house without windows and electricity is not something you see, and with two little children living there. It’s been a concern for everybody,” Butler said. “I’ve brought groceries over; nobody ever answers, [I] hung them on the door.”
Just four months ago in December of last year, police responded to burglary at the home, and one officer described the deplorable conditions as, “cluttered, dirty and in disrepair.”
They described a door covered in a brown substance, and in the boys’ room the smell of feces was “overwhelming,” while dog feces and urine were scattered throughout the home. And in the bitter cold of December, he noted, “several windows were open or broken.”
Police called the Crystal Lake Building and Zoning Department, but inspectors were not allowed inside.
The officer noticed one of the boys had bruise on his right hip, which Cunningham said came from the dog. On April 18, AJ’s younger brother was put in another home as part of a DCFS safety plan.
When AJ disappeared six days ago, something didn’t sit right with neighbors. Butler noted it would be “unusual” for a five-year-old to wander out during a heavy thunderstorm.
“I’m not going to lie, I have doubts, and it’s going to be someone’s fault, but I hope there’s answers. I hope there’s justice,” neighbor Lupe Mercado said.
Now authorities say he didn’t wander out, but instead was allegedly killed by his own parents, wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave.
“To AJ, we know you’re playing in Heaven’s playground, and you’re at peace,” Crystal Lake Police Chief Jim Black said.
Read the documents below